cir·​cum·​vent ˌsər-kəm-ˈvent How to pronounce circumvent (audio)
circumvented; circumventing; circumvents

transitive verb

: to manage to get around especially by ingenuity or stratagem
the setup circumvented the red tapeLynne McTaggart
circumvent a problem
: to hem in
Circumvented by the enemy, he had to surrender.
: to make a circuit around
the river circumvented
circumvention noun

Did you know?

The Circular History of Circumvent

If you’ve ever felt as if someone was running circles around those trying to get something done, you have an idea of the origins of circumvent—it comes from the Latin word circumventus, a form of the verb circumvenire, meaning “to surround or go around” (circumvenire combines the adverb circum, “in a circle around,” and the verb venire, “to come”). The earliest uses of circumvent referred to a tactic of hunting or warfare in which the quarry or enemy was encircled and captured. This meaning doesn’t exactly square with modern uses of the word. Today, circumvent more often suggests avoidance than entrapment; to come full circle, it typically means to “get around” someone or something, as by evading a problem or avoiding the law.

Examples of circumvent in a Sentence

Los Angeles was the beachhead for the sushi invasion, attracting many Japanese chefs eager to make their fortunes and to circumvent the grueling 10-year apprenticeship required in their homeland. Jay McInerney, New York Times Book Review, 10 June 2007
… Rondon and Lyra paddled to the right side, where they found a channel that circumvented the worst part of the rapids. Candice Millard, The River of Doubt, 2005
His appreciation of this finer side of life is circumvented by a cynicism that he tells me is common to Eastern Europeans. Lynne Tillman, Motion Sickness, 1991
The thirty-six-hour workweek established by the garment-industry code was circumvented by having the workers punch out at five P.M., leave by the back door (their usual entrance), then return by the front door and work until eleven P.M. without punching the clock. Melissa Hield, Speaking For Ourselves, (1977) 1984
We circumvented the problem by using a different program. He found a way to circumvent the law. See More
Recent Examples on the Web But wealthy Russians continue to rely on a network of middlemen to circumvent the restrictions. Oleg Matsnev Gray Beltran, New York Times, 4 Dec. 2023 The court ruled that the CHRB should have sent the decision first to the Board of Stewards rather than taking it upon itself to circumvent what would be the normal process. John Cherwa, Los Angeles Times, 2 Dec. 2023 Russia has begun to circumvent the sanctions by moving oil on a fleet of aging tankers. Richard Vanderford, WSJ, 16 Nov. 2023 This shift culminated in Ethiopia’s accession alongside five other states, including Iran, to the BRICS group, composed of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – a move that offers Ethiopia additional avenues to circumvent future U.S. sanctions. Mahad Darar, The Conversation, 13 Nov. 2023 The Senate has circumvented Tuberville's hold in a limited way by voting individually on a handful of key nominees in the past few months, but to do this for the over 370 flag and general officer nominations still pending would take the Senate weeks to complete. Eleanor Watson, CBS News, 1 Nov. 2023 The 800 series chips were designed specifically for the Chinese market to circumvent the earlier iterations of the export control rules. Bylionel Lim, Fortune, 1 Nov. 2023 Unfortunately, a small number of non-Delegate protesters circumvented venue security and disrupted the program. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, 18 Nov. 2023 On their own, the promotion of violating content with ads and edited trailers allows right-wing organizations to circumvent hate-speech protections. Ct Jones, Rolling Stone, 13 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'circumvent.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin circumventus, past participle of circumvenire, from circum- + venire to come — more at come

First Known Use

1539, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

Time Traveler
The first known use of circumvent was in 1539


Dictionary Entries Near circumvent

Cite this Entry

“Circumvent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


cir·​cum·​vent ˌsər-kəm-ˈvent How to pronounce circumvent (audio)
: to go around : bypass entry 2
: to get the better of or avoid the force or effect of by cleverness
circumvented the rules
circumvention noun

More from Merriam-Webster on circumvent

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